Goodyear Nordic
Goodyear Nordic. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

Last year I reviewed the Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSi winter tires and found that they were the best winter tires I had tested to date. At the end of that review I asked readers what tires they wanted to see reviewed next, and the responses were quite varied, but a few people suggested Canadian Tire’s winter tire, the Nordic Ice Trac. This piqued my interest, since they’re substantially less expensive than leading-brand tires and it’s difficult to find independent reviews of them.

So I contacted Canadian Tire’s PR people, and they sent me a set of Goodyear Nordics – which have replaced last year’s Ice Tracs – on 16-inch steel wheels.

Although Goodyear’s name is on the sidewalls of the Nordics, you won’t find these at Fountain Tire. Canadian Tire alone that sells these donuts. And it’s the price that makes the story here: the P205/60 R16 tires fitted to my Mazda6 wagon list at $110 per tire. For comparison, Canadian Tire lists the popular Michelin X-Ice of the same size for $167.49. That works out to a savings of more than $200 for a set of four tires, which for many people is hard to ignore.

The tires are equipped with what has become standard fare on winter rubber: lots of lateral siping, or lateral zigzag grooves in the tread blocks, combined with a polymer tread compound that stays flexible at lower temperatures.

For us here in Winnipeg, the ultimate mobility test was on December 31, 2006. Thirty centimetres of fresh snow had fallen overnight, and there happened to be a brand new Audi A6 with all wheel drive sitting in the garage waiting to be driven.

So naturally, I grabbed the keys to my front-drive wagon and went for a spin–(figuratively, of course).

It was fairly early in the day, and there had only been a few tracks from other vehicles on our sleepy street. Most of my neighbours were shovelling or blowing snow from their driveways, but not me. You see, at the end of the lawn-mowing season I had emptied the last of the unleaded gas from my jerry can and my snow blower was in desperate need of some fresh fuel. So I threw the can in the back of the car and hoped for the best.

Goodyear Nordic
Goodyear Nordic. Click image to enlarge

Even though I positioned the car to travel along the tracks that others had forged, I clearly had less ground clearance than those who went before me. With the traction control turned off, I put the stick in the “2” position and gently rolled into the throttle as I engaged the clutch. The Nordics dug in and made short work of the freshly fallen snow, propelling the car forward in a most confident manner.

As soon as I accumulated some speed, up to about 25-30 km/h, it became apparent just how low my Mazda6 is: snow was flying over the hood and windshield as I ploughed my way to the gas station. Nice.

So the tires perform well in deep snow, but what about during the rest of our Prairie winter? Aside from snow traction, I typically look for how well the tires perform on ice as well as on dry and wet pavement (both warm and cold). Noise is a factor as well – and every driver will want a different blend of characteristics from their tires.

For me, it’s the deep snow and ice traction that matter. I’m willing to put up with sloppier dry handling and a bit of road noise if I’m confident the tires will pull through for me in an emergency situation on slippery roads.

I had the tires installed in November, allowing me to appreciate that these are pretty decent tires on dry pavement and in the wet stuff. Road noise is only an issue on wet pavement, and the tires didn’t exhibit as much of that squishy feel that I have come to expect from good winter rubber.

The imprecise handling I mentioned is normally attributed to the aforementioned lateral siping. The deep, narrow strips of tread that result are flexible and provide more edges or “blades” with which the tire grips the road. But while being flexible aids the tires’ bite on a slippery surface, it doesn’t do much for steering response or road feel.

The Nordics use a unique technology called “bubble blade” to add stiffness to the treads. Each blade has a convex bubble on one side and a concave one on the other, so when the blades want to flex, the adjacent ones interlock to reduce the relative movement between the blades and stiffen up the tread blocks.

Goodyear only partially accomplished their goals with this technology, because while the tread blocks are stiffer than they would be without the bubbles, they are also less effective on ice, and that’s where the Nordic gives way to the class leaders in winter tires. Having said that, they still get a passing grade and there’s absolutely no question as to the advantage of driving through winter with a set of these versus the three-season tires that likely came on your car. And the Nordics are studdable, which should enhance their ice performance at the expense of increased noise on the road.

So would I recommend these tires? Absolutely. For those who would like to feel safer behind the wheel this winter but need the price to be manageable, it’s a logical choice.

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